As my husband tripped and the twins and I trailed down Myrtle Street to the annual Calistoga Fourth of July parade, I felt proud to be an American, and perturbed that his stubbed-toed bleeder followed us all the way down the street to where the parade commenced. This is not the first tumble to befall us because of the town’s jagged sidewalks, nor the first time I’ve complained about the saggy sidewalk syndrome. After the passing of some expletives and plumping of egos, we carried on. Flags waved, hometown pride soared right along with political signs that read: “Health Care not Wealth Care.” Bloody tumble aside, it’s events like this that are what I like most about small-town life. The gnarly roadways, however, I could do without. Despite all the money that lingers in these hills, how is it that our sidewalks border on unwalkable and in certain places flat out missing? Pushing my babies in a double-wide stroller that just barely crested over cracked sidewalks was bad enough and now as we trek on training wheeled bikes, the pavement threatens to topple them. I challenge anybody in my hood to find a continuous stretch of respectable sidewalks.
Thankfully, Houston, we not only have a problem we may have a solution. Enter John Draper, not to be confused with the dapper Don Draper on the retired AMC show Mad Men. The former, a project engineer hired by the city, is charged with a task that may prove to be even more daunting than developing a ’50s era ad campaign that doesn’t involve cocktail swilling—resuscitating our roadways, which according to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), are in dire need of attention. If you don’t believe me, nor my parade trek tale, I’ll restate a stat I’ve mentioned before. The street talkers at the MTC awarded Calistoga with a paltry 53 out of 100 points on the Pavement Condition Index (PIC) Richter scale. This lumps our roadways in the “at risk” category, noted with this adage: “deteriorated pavement requiring immediate attention.” (Their words not mine.) Even more impressive, the town’s Berry Street Bridge (scheduled for an overhaul that will take the passage out of commission for vehicles until January 2018) was ranked 142 out of 13,000 for worst local state bridge. But there is hope amid the dangerous streets and stubbed toes. The capital improvement project budget for 2017-2018 is official and weighs in at $2.68 million, which is slated for reconstruction, overlay, micro-surfacing and more! Here’s hoping that one small fraction of that loot makes it to our street so that smooth sidewalks will follow, ideally before my 4-wheeling toddlers hit puberty and slide behind the wheel of a car.
It’s raining it’s pouring the, wait, no that was winter! While the drops have stopped the onslaught of new hotel development continues to pour. This year brought the long-awaited opening of the Las Alcobas, in St. Helena, with downtown Napa’s Archer hotel slated to open later this year. New hotel applications and development plans continue to mount including a $100 million proposed resort from Napa Valley Wine Train owners, Noble House Hotels & Resorts, who have eyes on building a 348,00 square-foot, five story resort in and around the current train station property in the Oxbow district. In addition to approximately 148 guest rooms, the proposal includes a glammed up European style train station, enhanced train service, housing and all of the features and amenities of a full-service resort including a tiki bar, which should at least pacify my wayward family.
Adding to the pot, there’s the proposal from Pacific Hospitality Group, for the development of an additional 253-room space near the Meritage Resort in South Napa. An approved plan from developer Andrew Siegal has morphed from a housing-office mixed use space into what may become the Black Elk, a four story, 27-room boutique hotel. If these projects turn from concept to reality it could mean big bucks in the form of increased tax revenues, which could explain the obvious enticement for city officials. Meanwhile locals quip over when and if there will ever be a tipping point with hotel development, and for that matter, winery growth, the latter which could fill countless columns. As an Up Valley townie, I too grapple with the upsides (property values soar!), and downsides (traffic and binge tourism!) that come with explosive growth, which brings me back to where I began. Amid all the vineyard grazing hotels, resorts and wineries, I have to wonder if our parades and other small-town fare will carry on or if the glitz and glam of turbo-charged tourism will rule the roadways and more? And if the latter is the new “norm,” might just a few of those extra pennies get poured into maintaining our streets so that people can roam the sidewalks without falling all over them.
Cows grazing along hillsides and in seaside meadows are a picturesque and familiar sight in Marin and Sonoma counties. Dairy farms have been a local presence for more than 100 years, but thes...